2014 NBA Draft: Top SFs Gordon, Parker and Wiggins

The 2014 draft has been all about the SFs. While I feel center Joel Embiid is the top prospect, the buzz around the most anticipated draft in years has been around SFs Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. These two are the reason the 2014 draft was labelled “legendary” before either played a minute of college ball. Both have been called the best high school prospect since LeBron James while in high school. Both are SFs, with Wiggins possibly being able to play some SG and Parker a potential stretch 4. Both had impressive, but mildly disappointing freshmen seasons, considering the hype. Both have spent the season in the top 3 of the mocks, along with Joel Embiid. I’m going to look at those two and their fellow freshman SF Aaron Gordon here.

All 3 players are projected to be drafted in the top ten. To get an idea of where they stand I comped them with the freshman seasons of SFs drafted in the top 10 since the start of the millennium. I left Joe Alexander of the list, because he played very few minutes as a freshman. I tried to rank the players in some sort of order of ability/accomplishment. That’s a difficult thing since many of these careers are unfinished, but it does separate the successes from the failures.

Freshmen SF

Min

2PP

3PP

P40

R40

A40

SB40

Kevin Durant

1225

505

404

27.3

11.8

1.4

4.0

Carmelo Anthony

1274

496

337

24.4

11.0

2.4

2.6

Andre Iguodala

614

438

205

12.0

9.1

3.8

2.7

Paul George

1176

486

447

16.7

7.3

2.2

3.2

Luol Deng

1149

514

360

19.4

8.9

2.4

3.1

Shane Battier

887

597

167

12.4

10.4

1.8

4.7

Mike Miller

677

575

356

20.2

8.6

3.4

2.5

Demar DeRozan

1168

562

167

16.6

6.9

1.8

1.6

Mike Dunleavy

724

553

351

15.1

7.1

2.8

2.6

Rudy Gay

893

460

467

15.4

7.0

2.0

3.5

Gordon Hayward

1045

523

448

17.2

8.5

2.5

3.1

Jeff Green

1083

528

400

17.2

8.1

3.8

3.3

Corey Brewer

645

538

436

12.2

5.6

3.2

3.0

Marvin Williams

800

522

432

20.4

11.8

1.3

2.9

Josh Childress

791

468

275

14.0

8.6

1.4

1.8

Harrison Barnes

1087

470

344

21.3

8.0

2.0

1.6

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

808

450

231

13.9

8.8

2.4

2.4

Derrick Williams

875

594

250

22.0

9.9

1.0

1.8

Al-Farouq Aminu

899

570

179

16.6

10.5

1.8

2.7

Evan Turner

1004

528

333

12.9

6.7

4.0

2.7

Wes Johnson

983

524

294

15.8

10.1

1.4

2.4

Otto Porter

980

602

224

13.1

9.4

2.2

2.6

Rodney White

865

533

347

24.2

8.4

1.9

2.5

Luke Jackson

506

n/a

360

17.2

9.1

4.4

2.3

Adam Morrison

619

592

309

22.2

8.3

2.8

1.4

Jabari Parker

1073

504

358

25.0

11.4

1.5

3.0

Andrew Wiggins

1148

493

341

20.2

6.9

1.8

2.5

Aaron Gordon

1187

513

356

16.0

10.3

2.6

2.5

 

It is very difficult to take anything from this chart as far as what to look for in a great SF prospect in freshman stats. Durant and Anthony were clearly dominators as freshmen. Everyone else was difficult to get a read on. I’ll break things down by scoring, rebounding, passing and defense.

Scoring: The 6 players who topped .500 2PP and 20.0 P40 as freshmen were Kevin Durant, Mike Miller, Derrick Williams, Marvin Williams Rodney White and Adam Morrison. That’s 1 MVP, 1 solid journeyman and 4 players who haven’t lived up to expectations. With the exception of Iguodala, Childress and Kidd-Gilchrist, every player listed here was at least a decent scorer as an NCAA freshman. I can say there is nothing about the offense of any of the three 2014 prospects that I would call a concern.

Rebounding: The players who hit double figures are Durant, Anthony, Battier, Marvin Williams, Aminu and Johnson. This is also a mixed group, but better overall than the 6 top scorers. The good news for Jabari Parker is the two best players on the list, Durant and Anthony, were the only two to top 24.0 P40 and 10.0 R40 as he did. Wiggins low, 6.9, R40 is a concern, but Paul George and DeMar DeRozan overcame similar low numbers to become all-stars. In the final analysis it is better to rebound well, but a low R40 doesn’t doom a freshman SF prospect.

Passing: This is the one that’s all over the place. Durant had a very low assist rate as a freshman. The top 6 in A40 were Iguodala, Miller, Green, Brewer, Turner and Jackson, hardly the cream of the crop. Gordon is the only one of the 3 freshmen who would call passing a strength. Passing is a nice skill for any player to have in his arsenal, but it has never had much correlation to a great pro career for NCAA freshmen at any position other than point guard.

Defense: The defensive numbers are where we start to see some separation between the players who were more and less successful. Of the 14 players ending at Marvin Williams who became at least a decent rotation player in the NBA, 8 of 14 posted an SB40 over 3.0 and all but DeRozan were over 2.5. The players who were less successful, 7 of 11 were under 2.5 and none topped 3.0. Steals and blocks show NBA-level athleticism and a high number in both is always a good sign for a prospect.  The 3 freshmen are all at 2.5 or above, so this doesn’t appear to be a concern.

Now a look at each player individually:

Jabari Parker, Duke: From the chart above, the two players who looked like stars as freshmen were the top 2, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Both were the leading scorer on a talented college team as freshmen. Both rebounded like PFs. Durant posted dominant defensive numbers and Anthony’s were decent. It is no surprise that both have had the NBA success they’ve experienced. Jabari Parker’s freshman year fits right in with these two. He posted great numbers for a freshman and there is every reason to expect he’ll be at least a solid pro.

Breaking his season down by the months, Parker had 3 great months and 2 that weren’t so good:

Jabari Parker

2PP

3PP

P40

R40

A40

SB40

A/TO

Nov-Dec

550

455

28.3

10.6

2.4

3.1

0.8

January

375

281

20.4

11.7

0.7

2.5

0.3

February

557

313

23.9

13.9

1.4

4.1

0.4

March

476

286

25.1

9.5

0.8

1.8

0.3

He was inconsistent, but in a freshman I think that can even be spun as a positive. A college freshman is in his first season of elite ball, playing against tough competition every game for the first time in his career. That he would experience a slump or two is something that would be expected. Part of the development process is learning to work through the slumps. I’d rather draft a freshman who posted the incredible February numbers Parker did, with the idea he’ll figure out how to eliminate or minimize the slumps and post the type of numbers he did in February every month as he gains more experience.

The one concern in the numbers is he wasn’t a good passer as a freshman. Taking the above chart into account, this isn’t a big deal, but it should be mentioned. It would be more of a concern if his turnovers were high, but that isn’t the case. Parker is more like Durant as freshman in that he just didn’t pass the ball a lot. This is something that’s very correctable and shouldn’t be considered a negative when evaluating him.

I see Jabari Parker as the best prospect of this trio and a likely perennial NBA all-star. Everything about his numbers suggests this will be the case. While no prospect is a 100% sure thing, Parker looks the part. All year I’ve seen him as a player in the mold of Carmelo Anthony. That’s a big-time scorer and perennial all-star, but also a player who falls a tad short of the type who can be the alpha dog on a championship team. However, if the drive and work ethic is there (and I have no idea on this one) a step up to that level is a possibility.

Aaron Gordon, Arizona: I would first like to look at the Matrix 2.0 projection for Aaron Gordon that Grantland’s Bill Simmons has been pushing. That’s a pretty heady comp for Gordon. Marion is near the end of a great career. If the consensus is that Gordon career will match Marion’s, he’ll be drafted #2 behind Joel Embiid. Here is Gordon’s freshman year against Marion’s only year of major college ball with the ’99 UNLV Rebels:

Player

2PP

3PP

P40

R40

A40

SB40

A/TO

Shawn Marion

573

299

22.8

11.3

1.5

5.3

0.9

Aaron Gordon

513

356

16.0

10.3

2.6

2.5

1.4

Marion was 18 months older than Gordon and had a couple of seasons of junior college ball under his belt at the time these numbers were posted. Marion is obviously the better prospect of the two at this point in their careers. He scored often and efficiently, rebounded well and was a monster on defense. In college Shawn Marion looked every bit the player he became as a pro. Gordon isn’t in his league yet.

That doesn’t mean Gordon can’t get there or at least a little closer than his overall numbers suggest he will. Gordon is just a freshman, so there is a lot more upside. A look at Gordon’s monthly splits shows a much more Matrixy March after a slow start:

Aaron Gordon

2PP

3PP

P40

R40

A40

SB40

A/TO

Nov-Dec

518

389

16.8

10.2

1.9

2.3

0.8

January

480

0

14.2

10.7

2.1

1.8

1.9

February

534

600

15.7

9.7

2.3

1.7

1.0

March

521

429

16.6

10.6

3.9

3.8

2.3

His scoring and rebounding were fairly consistent all year, but in March he became a much more active defender and a better passer. The March numbers have to be taken seriously. These numbers are for 331 minutes, many against tournament competition, so I doubt there is anything fluky about them. As a freshman, it isn’t a stretch at all to believe that Gordon figured some things out during the year and was able to improve his defense and passing dramatically. If we use his March numbers, Aaron Gordon is one heck of a prospect.

For most of the year I was down on Aaron Gordon. He didn’t look like much of a prospect at either forward position. That changed in March when his game came alive. Now I have jumped on the Gordon bandwagon with both feet. There’s a lot to like here. The fact that he stepped up his game is a good sign. The fact that he brings a well-rounded set of skills is another good thing.

I see Aaron Gordon as a good bet for NBA success. His ability to play both forward spots along with his diverse set of skills make him a valuable player. Matrix 2.0? That’s his high end, but remains a possibility. He would have to develop a more aggressive approach on offense. Considering the improvement he made in his defense during his freshman year, I wouldn’t discount such offensive improvement happening. Right now Battier 2.0 might be a better comp. That’s a top 5 player even in this loaded draft.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: Wiggins has been the “guy” in this draft since the start of the year. Actually we could probably go back to the time he announced he would be graduating high school with the class of 2013 and attending college with the draft class of 2014. Most of the early tanking talk was done with Wiggins in mind. He has been in the top 3 of the mocks for the entire year, jockeying with Embiid and Parker, with no one player emerging as the consensus #1. Just the fact that he’s been spoken of as another LeBron means he needs to be taken seriously as a prospect and potential star.

Based on the hype coming in, Wiggins’ season has been disappointing. There was very little of the dominance I look for in a top prospect. On the flip side there is very little to suggest that he’ll be a complete bust. With recent top overall high school SFs Harrison Barnes and Shabazz Muhammad, it was fairly obvious early on that neither was the player they were hyped to be. This hasn’t been the case with Wiggins and that makes him a little difficult to get a feel for.

Here are the monthly breakdowns for Wiggins:

Andrew Wiggins

2PP

3PP

P40

R40

A40

SB40

A/TO

Nov-Dec

527

341

19.9

6.8

1.8

2.4

0.8

January

476

400

20.2

8.2

1.9

1.6

0.6

February

444

333

18.6

6.1

2.2

2.9

1.5

March

514

286

22.3

6.7

1.4

3.3

0.4

His year was similar to Gordon’s in that he had a nice start, saw his numbers dip once the conference games started before finishing on a strong note. The March numbers put him comfortably in with the more successful SFs from the table above. The one downer in his March was the final game where he went 1-6 from the field with 4 points as the Jayhawks were upset by Stanford in round 2.

Another factor that has to be considered with Wiggins is that he might be able to slide over to the 2. As a super-athletic 6’7 SG with a 7’ wingspan he’s a scary prospect. I’m a little leery of this. He’s a very talented freshman, so the sky remains the limit, but there are a couple of things that suggest his position is SF. The first is the A/TO of 0.68. That’s low for a guard and would be considered a red flag in an older SG. The other is his S40, 1.4, is on the low side. It isn’t red flag warning low, but it is nowhere near the dominant type of number that the best SGs post.

I would not draft Andrew Wiggins in the top 10. There are just too many good prospects out there I’d be passing on. Drafting potential over production is a fool’s game. Parker came in and posted dominant numbers all year. Gordon looked like a star in March. Wiggins doesn’t have the dominant numbers that great players post at this age and for that reason I feel he’ll disappoint any team drafting him in the top 3.

I will concede that it is possible we haven’t seen the real Andrew Wiggins yet. Maybe he bought into his own hype a little too much and it affected his game. Maybe Kansas was the wrong place for a one-and-done. Perhaps a summer of hard work and refocusing under NBA-level tutelage will get Wiggins to be the player that had teams tearing down their rosters just to win a 25% chance of winning the lottery and drafting him. But all is probably wishful thinking. Andrew Wiggins will likely become a solid NBA SF and maybe even hit an all-star game or two during his career. But I don’t see him as anywhere near the franchise-saving superstar he had been hyped as.

 

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